Sunday, April 29, 2012


I have to say, it's been a pretty good running week.  Taking a solid week off to recover definitely showed when it came to running this week.  I felt much stronger, and was able to ramp up the intensity of my workouts, without ramping up mileage too much.  I decided to bring the mileage down a bit this week, and I'm going to slowly build it back up, following the 10% rule.  I know especially for my long runs, that's not something I've always followed in the past.  While I hate to admit it, I believe that may have been a contributing factor to the leg issues I was having that forced me to take a week off.  So, time to build again; 35 miles this week, and I'll slowly increase until I can maintain around a 50 mile/week average.
The North Face Endurance Challenge 10k trail race is coming up in just over a month, so I've changed up some of my workouts.  I'm trying to focus a little more on speed work.  To accomplish that, I'm doing one interval day a week, some incline treadmill repeats, a little bit of tempo, and making the long slow run more of a fartlek style.

The Endurance Challenge - Washington, DC

Ran the Neusiok Trail again today, for a total of 10 miles, and it felt great.  This is definitely the strongest I've felt on a long(er) run in quite awhile.  I didn't focus as much on keeping a steady pace this time, instead, I just ran how I felt.  If I felt like running faster, I did.  If I needed to recover, I slowed the pace down.  That worked out perfectly.  While I understand there is a certain benefit to pacing on longer runs, lately, I've been less worried about pace and more about feel.  After all, even in a race, if I just run as hard as I can when I can, and recover when I need too, is that such a bad method?  I guess I'll find out eventually.

In other news, the maltodextrin/gatorade mix drink I've been using as a fuel for the long runs still seems to be working great.  Ran all day today without using any gels, just the drink mix, and never felt a lack of energy.  I think I'll experiment some more with maybe making something more gel like out of it, if for no other reason than to have something more concentrated.

And, lastly, I finally finished Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. this weekend.  Excellent book.  I highly recommend it to anyone, whether they are a runner or not.  It's really just a great story, but it would help if you have some knowledge of running so that you can understand some of the lingo.  I downloaded the sequel today, Again to Carthage, and I hope it's just as good.  Pretty excited to get my pre-ordered copy of Eat and Run by Scott Jurek when it comes out, too.  I think for anyone who's an athlete or aspiring ultra-runner, he's definitely someone to strive to be like.

I also ordered my Cascadia 7s, and they should be in this week.  Looking forward to bombing around some trails in those.  I don't believe I'll be using those as a 10k race shoe, but I know they will for sure get some mileage.  Oh, and I almost forgot, my DVD copy of Unbreakable: The Western States 100 is in the mail, and I'll post a review as soon as I watch it.  I'll also post my thoughts on the Cascadia's after I get some miles in them. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The week after rest...4/23/2012

After having some nagging issues with my popliteus in my left leg, I finally forced myself to have some recovery and rest time.  I probably really needed it, because looking back through my logs, I realized that I haven't had a solid rest/recovery period since October/November of last year.  So, as difficult as it was to force myself not to run, I took 7 days off.  That's seven solid days without running at all, except maybe to occasionally to chase the kid. 

As easy as it may seem to NOT do something, I think it was much harder than one might imagine.  When you get into that routine, and that lifestyle of running everyday, or at least 6 days a week, taking a week away from it isn't always easy.  I did cycle a little bit, but really I just wanted to give myself the opportunity to rest up and let my legs recover a bit.  So I spent the week relaxing, drinking beer, eating ice cream, and things like that.  I still managed to get some good (if not painful) nights of stretching and foam rolling in to loosen things up.  While I didn't get any miles in, I still think it was a good training week.

I went back out for my first run today, and it would appear as thought the rest paid off.  Legs felt good, and overall, I felt very fresh.  I ended up only putting in about 4 miles running with a friend, but it was a great, light, conversational run.  We only averaged around an 8 minute mile, but I pushed it at the end to around a 6 minute pace.  Pretty sure I could have pushed that whole run to around a 7 minute pace, but that wasn't really the point of today's run, and I enjoyed it anyway.

I thought quite a bit about how I'm training while I was off last week.  I kind of enjoy my "unstructured" method (which pretty much just means getting out and running whatever I feel like), but having now registered for The North Face Endurance Challenge 10k trail run, I want to get faster.  Basically, I want to PR, which means that I need to finish in sub 47:51, which means I need to do more intensity and speedwork.  I'm thinking about throwing in some tempo work, an interval run, the stair master workout, and then making my long run more a fartlek.  I'm ready to start pushing it, and hopefully (very hopefully) I'll be able to run a sub 45 10k, which would be awesome.  I think that might be too much to try and accomplish in the 6 weeks before this run, especially on a new and unfamiliar course (time will tell), but it's something I definitely want to do before the end of the year. 

So, for now, push it and see what happens.  This whole year of racing is a year of racing firsts, so right now I'm perfectly resigned to enjoying myself and going with the flow.  But I think what really need to do also is quit jerking myself around.  As soon as I can get something solid on where I'm going to be living later this year, it's time to man up, and get a 50k by the end of the year.  All or nothing, right? 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Boys Night

It's just me and Tyler at home tonight, as the wife is working late. Contrary to dinner plans laid out for me, I think we are going to go for pizza instead. After all, it is boys night, right? And what does a 4 year old love more than some pizza and ice cream for dinner? I couldn't imagine anything else! I know I'm looking forward to a dinner of pizza and a nice Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss (one of my favorite brews).

Today was a different workout than what I would usually do; I used the Stairmaster at the gym. I figured we don't really have any good hills here, so I'll have to make due with what I've got. Ran to the gym, did 3 miles (30 min) on the machine, and then ran back. I felt pretty good over all, but I could definitely tell my legs got a workout they don't usually get on this flat coastal ground. I know it's not hills, but it's what I've got to work with, so I'll take it.

Mixed up my first home made endurance drink tonight, so I'll try it out tomorrow on a little longer run to see how it works out. I used the little scooper in the Gatorade mix container, and mixed pure maltodextrin with gatorade powder (orange) at a 3:1 ratio, and added it to 20 oz of water. Took a quick sip, and the taste is pretty mellow, so as long as the carbohydrates work out, should be a good mix. I'm sure I'll tweek it more as I learn more about Maltodextrin and caloric needs, but this at least gives me a starting point.

Time to order some pizza!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Decisions, decisions. 4/10/12

There are so many decisions out there when it comes to the technicalities of running. Primarily what I mean is gear, fueling, etc. It seems each runner has their own specific method of doing things, and I suppose that's how it should be. I know each person is an individual, so each thing may work differently for each person. As I begin working towards longer distances, I know these things are going to become more and more important. It's not like a 10k trail run where basically all I need to do is wake up and have a cup of coffee in the morning and that's enough fuel to carry me through the race.

So, fuel first; right now I've been primarily using Gu gels, and they seem to work decent. However, I know that even on a two hour run, that second Gu I pop I definitely have to force down, because I don't really dig the taste at that point (currently on the Gu expresso flavor). For awhile I got caught up in the chia seed and fruit juice gel mixture, and while it seemed to work ok for shorter runs, there just wasn't enough energy for anything over 10 miles. I know that the Gu will continue to work when I need it to, but at around $1.20 or so a shot, it can get expensive.

So I've been looking for an alternative, something that I can mix myself, and maybe even flavor myself to work with. I've been listening to some podcasts (Ultrarunnerpodcast, Trail Runner nation, Endurance Planet), and doing some research into home made mixes. Seems to be several of the homemade mixers, especially on the triathlete side of the house are using maltodextrin and gatorade powder. What I can't seem to find is the ratio. I know malto is cheap, especially when you consider you can buy it in bulk from brewery supply places (I'm sure there's one around here somewhere, just haven't looked yet), and gatorade powder isn't that expensive either, and comes in a variety of flavors. I guess I've got some more research to do, and then some experimentation to conduct.

As for gear, one thing I know for sure so far; I love my Nathan handheld water bottle. I'm going to have to get another one of those, so that I can have one mixed with whatever drink mix I come up with, and the other with straight water. It's got a great little pouch for gels or car keys or whatever you want I suppose, and it's very comfortable to wear while running.

Shirts, I love my North Face technical shirts, because they are super light, wick really great, and I hardly notice wearing them. But, I have to admit, weather dependent, I'd always much rather run shirtless.

For shorts, I love my North Face 2-in-1 Flight series shorts. They are longer ones, with a full length boxer-brief liner. They definitely help prevent alot of chaffing in the nether regions (if you know what I mean).

Shoes, well, I know what I like, and I know what I want to like, and I know what works. Fortunately, what I like and what works both seem to be my Merrell Road and Trail gloves. I also really like my Brooks Pure Grits, depending on the terrain. And I'll admit, after running a fairly technical 11 miler on Sunday, my Achilles and calves are screaming at me from wearing the Trail gloves. I know a little more adjustment will help, but I may start using my Pure Grits for more technical stuff.

What I want to like, is just about everything from the NB minimus line, and the MT110s. Unfortunately for me, I just can't seem to get them to work for me. Oh well...after all, I do love my Merrells, there is no doubt about that. The Road Gloves are the best running shoe I've ever run in.

We'll see what I can find out through experimentation with fueling and gear as time progresses, and I'll be sure to post it up here!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Long Run Day Sunday 4/8/12

Went for another long run day on the Neusiok Trail today. For those who don't know, here's a link ( It's a great trail running through the Croatan National Forest here in Eastern NC. Total length of the trail is ~21 miles, but it's split in multiple portions by state highways, making for great sections to use for out-and-back long runs (yes, I realize "long run" is a relative term, for me right now, a "long run" is around 10-12 miles). It's also part of the North Carolina "Mountains to Sea Trail," which runs from the Great Smokey Mountains all the way to the Outer Banks.

There is some varying terrain, going from cypress swamps and bogs, to some hardwood ridges. There's plenty of little stream and bog crossings, most of which have man-made boardwalks crossing them. All in all, I think it's a great little secret in Eastern North Carolina. In general, the trail is completely runnable, with only a few moderately technical sections (mainly due to fallen logs and tree roots). Either way, I know from experience on my long runs out there, that on the way back of a 12 mile out-and-back, those tree roots have taken me down on more than one occasion...

Yesterday, was the first time I ran the section from NC 306 parking lot back towards the Pine Cliff Recreation area (on the Neuse River). Usually I run the section from NC 306 to Mill Creek Road crossing NC 101 (Toad wallow and The Pines). The Pine Cliff section I ran yesterday was a fantastic surprise. Very soft single track for the beginning, which then turned into alot of rolling climbs and descents. Nothing too crazy elevation wise, but in Eastern NC, if you run on flatland all the time, this section will make you work. Much of the climbs and decents come in and out of flowing creeks, and are marked by some of the semi-technical root sections growing out of the coastal hardwood trees. It made for a great run, and pardon my french, it was kind of an ass-kicker.

It really makes me look forward to moving out west, and getting to run some actual mountains out there, and get some real elevation in...I know I'm going to need the workout!

Keep Running!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The week in review 4/2-4/5/12

Interesting week thus far...

Got a new pair of shoes on Tuesday. For trail shoes, I've already learned that I love the Merrell Trail gloves. I've tried a few others, like the New Balance MT10s, and the Brooks Pure Grit, but I just love running the trails in the Merrells.

The problem I've been having is in the search for my perfect road shoe. I've tried several on, such as the the brooks Pure Flow and Pure connect, which I really wanted to like, but just found too narrow for my forefoot (which I found surprising since my Pure Grits are one of the most comfortable shoes I own). I own a pair of Saucony Kinvara 2's (my first pair of "minimalist" shoes aside from a pair of VFFs) that I actually loved, but found that the more miles I put in, the bigger my forefoot gets, and now they are just a bit too small.

A few weeks ago I went on the search again, determined to find a new pair of road shoes that was low to the ground, and wide enough for my forefoot with as little cushioning as possible. (Yes, I have a pair of VFF KSOs, but I don't like doing long runs in them, I use them more for casual wear and shorter training runs.) The first thing I learned, is that the minimalist running shoe selection here in Jacksonville is almost non-existent. The one "specialty" running store we had in town, Omega sports, closed months ago, so now we are only left with the big market stores, such as Dicks, Shoe Carnival, Finish Line, etc. They provide a great selection of running shoes, as long as the running shoes you are looking for are huge Nike's or Asics. Not really my style. I considered a pair of Nike Free's, but they don't even have the Free 3.0s, so even the ones they did have still made me feel like I was walking around in a pair of heels.

Eventually, I came across the New Balance M730 at Finish Line. I was happy to find that there was a New Balance shoe, in the minimus line, that I hadn't yet heard of and was available at the mega market stores! I tried it on, and eventually ended up buying it. Ran in it a couple times the week that I bought them, and then realized that they have this weird thing with the sole that causes the opposite side of the arch of the foot push up, almost causing my foot to pronate un-naturally, and ended up causing me knee pain. Too bad, because like the MT10s, I really wanted to like these shoes, but so far every NB minimalist shoe I've tried has given me posterior knee pain after only 4-5 miles. So the M730s were not a good fit either. Unfortunately, the big box stores like to have the policy that if it's been on your foot, it can't be returned. I ended up giving them away, hopefully they will work for someone else. I suppose the plus side to the 730s is they were probably the least expensive running shoes I've bought in awhile. The MT10s I kept around, because I love them for casual wear, I just can't seem to run in them without pain. Kind of disappointing, because I love what NB is doing with the input of Eric Skaggs and Anton Krupicka with their Minimus line, and I really want a pair of the MT110s. But, the wife has been the voice of reason on those, and thus far succeeded in preventing the purchase of another pair of New Balance shoes.

Anyway, fast forward to this week. The wife needed a new pair of running shoes, and I was still on my quest for a road shoe. We ended getting the wife a pair of the Sketchers Go Run's, which I have to admit are an odd looking shoe. However, I've really yet to find a bad review on them, and most of the shoe reviewers/bloggers that I follow have given good reports on them. They aren't really my style (I admit, I focus almost as much on style as I do function with my shoes), but I think they will be a great choice for the wife; time will tell for sure. I ended up buying the Merrell Road Glove for myself. I figured, if I love the Trail Glove, then the Road Glove should be good too, right?

Wrong. They are better. The search is over, because I believe I have finally found my perfect road shoe, and possibly my perfect running shoe all together. The shape of the shoe fits my foot perfectly. The Vibram sole is awesome to run on. While I love the sole on the Trail Glove, and find that for trails it is awesome, it's not that great on pavement. The Road Glove, however, is amazing. They are like Ninja shoes. I can move so silent in them. I've been a fan of Merrell hiking shoes for everyday/casual wear in the past, so now I think Merrell has reaffirmed themselves as my go to for footwear.

I've got about 20 miles in the Road Gloves now, on varied hard pack surfaces (treadmill, gravel road, sidewalk, street, hard pack dirt track), and they performed awesomely on all of them. As a matter of fact, for well groomed, hard pack trails, these may actually replace my Trail Gloves as the go to for racing. I'll post more updates as I get more mileage in them...

Future Race Plans (so far)

North Face Endurance Challenge D.C. Trail Half-Marathon and Marathon Relay

Monday, April 2, 2012

The beginning

It wasn't until recently that I even considered myself a runner, let alone someone with the goal of running a 100-mile ultramarathon. I hated running. I did it when I was required, and being a military man, I've been required to do a significant amount. Even still, I would say I averaged maybe 4-5 "forced" miles a week. By forced, I mean I ran them because I was required, not because I chose to do so.

For some reason, all that changed about 8 months ago (August 2011). While I was deployed, confined to a ship for 10 1/2 months, I went stir crazy. As a Marine aboard a Navy ship for a deployment, I didn't really have a day-to-day job, so I had nothing but time. That's where things changed. That's right, while I was deployed, confined to a ship in the middle of the ocean for the better part of a year, I decided to take up running; not exactly the prime location, but it worked out great for me.

I'm sure it had something to do with boredom, maybe it was being confined in a small space with nowhere to go, or maybe it was something else, I'm not really sure. But, one day, of my own free will, I hopped on a treadmill for a run. It was probably only around 2-3 miles, but I didn't hate it. So I did it again the next day, and the next day. I continued doing it about 5-6 days a week since then. It's amazing, that when you don't have to do something, you actually enjoy it more if you decide to do it yourself. I found that when I could do it at my own pace, for as long or as short as I wanted, I loved to run. And that's really where it started...

From that point on, I started researching running more. I even started wearing Vibram Five Fingers to run in on some days. The more I started researching running and different techniques and styles to get better at it, the more I saw about the minimalist movement.

What appealed most to me about the minimalist movement wasn't just the lightweight, low drop footwear, but the ideology behind it. The idea to be more of a part of nature and your surroundings through running. I've always liked being in the outdoors, and the more I thought about it, I really couldn't find a better way to take it all in than on my own two feet, so it just made sense to me.

Then I started reading some books, and I have to say, the first "running" book I read was Born to Run. The book didn't get me into running, but it definitely motivated me to continue. The seemingly "super-human" feats the runners in that book accomplished was very attractive to me. It really changed my outlook not just on running, but honestly, on how I wanted to live my day to day life from then on out, and I've really been trying to do so since.

The first person I read about doing this thing called an "UltraMarathon" was Marshall Ulrich, and it was purely by a lucky google search. I read an article somewhere about his Badwater Quad, and it blew my mind that someone could run that far. Then I did more and more research, and learned about all the ultramarathons out there, and decided that I wanted to do one. I've been sticking to that path ever since. Slowly but surely, I'll work my way to an ultra, and eventually a 100 miler, maybe more.

Since I started really getting into running last August, I've logged probably 1000 miles. I ran my first 10k trail race last weekend, and I'm about to jump up to a trail half-marathon. Hoping to run a 50k at least by this time next year, if not sooner.

This blog will be my daily, or weekly updates on training, running, thinking, and family; and probably just as important, the balance between them all. I've got a long way to go, but I've come pretty far...

And so it begins...the Journey to the Ultra.